Sunday, April 17, 2016

Practicing Production or Getting Better Through Consistency


 In the past year I've had mixed success with Malifaux. It hasn't changed my enjoyment of the game by any means, but it can be frustrating. At one point I lost 12 games in a row with Collodi. I decided that a change might be what I needed and grabbed a few Arcanists to see if a faction change would make a difference.  For the most part it did the trick. I found that I enjoyed Arcanist play style and eased into the faction much quicker than I did with Neverborn. However, I'm still not winning as much as I was hoping I would.  In today's blog I'm setting up the parameters to challenge myself based on 3 objectives: Consistency, Scheme Selection and Crew Knowledge.


This is one of the biggest parts of my plan. I'll admit to having a "TRY IT ALL" attitude and with so many new toys in Arcanists, I want to play them all. The thing is, I'm left with a faction I only know
marginally instead of intimately. So I inventoried my Masters in the Arcanists and decided which one I really enjoyed playing. It was a very tough choice between Marcus and Colette but in the end my Dark Carnival models just called to me more than the Beasts.  I'll be setting up a core crew and playing it pretty much exclusively for 30 games the only changes being a model or two to benefit from certain schemes, strats and factions.

Scheme Selection
Another major weak point for me, I always seem to choose the wrong scheme when it comes down to clutch games. So the plan is to play the same crew through them all. I want to see exactly what this crew can and can't do easily. I know that Colette has an easy time with marker based schemes, but there's not always the right schemes in the pool so I need to learn how to make the same crew more flexible and learn to refocus to Hunting Party instead of Search the Ruins when it comes up.
The second part of this section is to learn how to effectively counter my opponent's plans. Tournaments are won through differentials and the points you allow your opponent to grab can be the difference between 1st place and 5th depending on how many people are in the tournament. So I'll be attempting to devote time in learning how to deny as well as gain my own points.

Crew Knowledge
One of the biggest complaints about Malifaux tournaments is that they rarely make it to turn 5 and how it can swing the game in favor of the aggressive plan vs the attrition plan. Since it is impossible to score all 4 strategy points before turn 5, I've decided that my game play needs to be quick and to the point. The best way for that to happen is to have a clear and precise knowledge of what my crew is capable of. It goes back to consistency, but I feel that this is a significant point to make. Learning just what the strengths and weaknesses of your crew is the key to making plans for 10VP that actually work out. So I'm going to work on a core crew for Colette that I can plug and play with minimal changes between rounds. It might take me a few games to really make the core solid but I have a good starting point.

Showgirls and Oddities
So what is the magical core crew for Colette that I'm playing and why do I make the choices that I have? I'm so glad you asked:

Colette (actually Mr. Cooper because METAL)
Shell Game
Arcane Reservoir
Cabaret Coreography  

So lets break down the master and upgrade selection. The name of the game with a single master plan is flexibility. Colette brings flexibility in spades, while not dealing a lot of damage on her own, she is a force multiplier. This is a term that means she takes your threats and makes them better. Her prompt ability allows you to get more gas out of your big beaters or more scheme markers out of your runners. She's nearly impossible to neutralize as long as she has scheme markers near by, she can summon doves (monkeys) to help with activation control, and she has board control by teleporting threats across the board with Disappearing Act.

I took Shell Game for more versatility. Colette can changes cards for stones or stones for cards. Reservoir is almost an auto take in Arcanists and Cabaret allows you to summon monkeys and with the right set up, get an extra attack out of anyone near a scheme marker.

Cassandra (actually Baritone Lola)
Practiced Production

Cassandra is a fantastic henchman. Nimble makes her super mobile. Understudy allows her to grab abilities for redundancy. Southern Hospitality makes her very hard to take out and gives her nearly carte blanche to walk in and out of combat at her leisure.  Practiced Production, along with Colette's ability to do (0) interacts through Showgirls, makes any marker based schemes nearly trivial. Combine Cassandra with a Silent One and the damage potential of your crew becomes exponential.

Myranda (she's just Myranda)
Imbued Energies 

So we will continue with this theme of versatility. Since I won't be bringing a lot of beasts, Myranda loses out on her tactical actions but that's ok because she can start the game as a scheme runner with her 6 Wk and when she's in position she becomes any in-faction beast that you need for the situation AND you get to draw 4 cards. Most times she will probably become a Cerberus over other beasts but there's fringe cases she could become Cojo or a Rattler.

Miss Step
Imbued Energies

So Howard/Step is the biggest and nastiest monster in the faction. Armed with Nimble, a min 4 damage and easy to hit Decapitate Trigger, Flurry and the possiblity of gaining fast through Energies, the only thing not to like about this guy is the 12SS price tag. I'll have to make sure he stays safe until I can get him into the right position.  

Performer (Mercury)

My first minion in the game, at 5 points she brings me a Lure style attack, (0) interacts for practiced production, the possibility of Reactivating Colette and protection from getting auto points scored against me for Hunting Party.

This robot allows my performer to shoot markers 6" up the board, can tag along with the Performer and offers me another activation to along with the flying monkeys. 

That leaves me 5SS and a full cache for my double henchmen and master crew to play with. Colette can get SS back for suits (usually going to be used for summoning monkeys but there are other uses as well).

This will be the core crew I start with. In reserves I'm keeping Silent Ones, Coryphee and December Acolytes to play around with trading in and out for various schemes and strats.

The list as it stands has plenty of Killy with whatever beast Myranda turns into and Miss Step, scheme running with Cassandra and the performer, board control with the threat of tossing any of my big hitters anywhere a scheme marker might be plus a few nimble models. First games start this week and I'll try to keep notes from game to game about how I tinker with the list as I go.

This is one of the ways I'm looking at getting my own game up to par. I'm planning on attending a Trios at NOVA and possibly Nationals, so I want to be at peak condition for these events. If you have suggestions on ways to improve this method or want to try it yourself, feel free to comment and tell me about your own experiences!
Until next time Keep Cheating Fate!
John Fox

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Negative Play or How to Suck the Fun Out of a Game 101


Fun might well be the trickiest 3 letter word in the English language. Like most other abstract concepts having fun is a relative state of being. What is fun for one person is not always so for another. Most of us got into gaming because it looked fun. For some fun is painting and making decorative bases and terrain. Others have fun building themed lists and playing story encounters. Some people are only having fun when they are headed to top results in a tournament. The truth of the matter is, all of these ways are perfectly legit ways to have fun.

Negative play is a concept that I only heard come up very recently in my years as a gamer. When I was playing Magic it was simply called being a casual player if your deck wasn't top of the line. In fact my Magic career was so bent towards competitive that if a deck wasn't fun to play against, I usually built a variation of that deck or tinkered with the one I was playing until I knew I could win vs it. I played Magic to win and only to win, no other result would do. Its probably why I eventually burned out on the game.

F is for Friends That Do Things Together
Yes I just quoted Spongebob. I understand if you quit reading from here on out. So when we play Malifaux there are generally two purposes. One is to win a game through good play and decision making. The other is to enjoy a game where you pit your wits against another. There is another camp, though. That camp wants the win through any means. They scour the game looking for loop holes and interactions that allow a victory by any means. They keep it secret and safe until a tournament comes around so that they can drop the skew list against unsuspecting and unprepared opponents. This isn't a new concept. One could say that tactics like this go back to Hannibal and his made desire to bring elephants into Europe. Are these games fun when you are on the other side of the board? Definitely not.

Recently Malifaux rats have entered the spotlight as painfully annoying. By spending the majority activating meaningless rats, turning them into rat kings, splitting them back up into ratcatchers, and then when the opponent is tapped on activations unleashing a Killjoy in your opponent's deployment zone, you basically take over the game's momentum and it is hard or nearly impossible to come back once it happens.

While this isn't cheating it is a form of power gaming that will roll a tournament if the field isn't prepared for it, and might roll it even if your opponents are prepared for it. Its not fun to play against. Generally you walk away from these games wondering how it could go so horribly wrong.

Here are my thoughts, please understand they are opinions and not shared by everyone in the community. If you play this game in a tournament, especially a large convention tournament: take a deep breath and examine how to beat the Outcast game. Tournaments are competitive environments where the object is to win without cheating. Ratbomb is obnoxious, it needs to be fixed and probably will very soon, but it is not cheating. Exploiting the best combos is going to happen and while it isn't good for the meta game, its a major part of how tournaments go. This is the same in every game that has a competitive scene.

For those of you that play Ratbomb in casual games vs your casual gamer friends, shame on you. Lists like this have no business in story encounters, casual pick up games and games vs beginning players. If you want to foster a solid community and bring the levels of play in your community up, then game play needs to be competitive but fun. Lists like this in non competitive games will definitely drive people away.

U is for Unbalanced 

So you just lost to Ratbomb or Somer Spam. The game got away from you in such a way that after turn 1 there didn't feel like much reason to continue to play. It's ok. Take a deep breath and walk away from the tables for a few minutes. Our nature is to instantly drop the U word: Unbalanced. Its a concept that is a bit misunderstood when it comes to gaming and probably needs to be cleared up. Most people think game balance means that you can bring any group of models to a tournament and have an equal chance of winning all of your games. This idea isn't just false it is actually a bit damaging for the game on the whole. Sure I can bring Ironsides and 6 fire gamin to a tournament and even if I do win it will probably be because my opponents high cards aren't in their deck.
Some Gamers are actually Dwight. No one likes this guy.

Balance is really about having a healthy game environment where one specific list isn't so dominating that it crushes  multiple tournaments with no chance of retaliation. For the most part, Malifaux is a very balanced game at least in 2nd edition. Every faction has a few top tier crews and even the bottom level crews can win games with the right set up and player behind them. When you think about balance, look at the lists that are winning in your local meta and the national meta. Is it one list over and over again, or is there a healthy amount of variation. In our local meta Gremlins and Outcasts (minus the bomb) are seen as the faction to beat, however that is based on the fact that we have some great Gremlin and Outcast players. Personally, I love playing against these guys, even when I lose because it helps me become better at the game overall.

N is for the eNd is Nigh

Ratbomb and its other variations don't spell doom for Malifaux. Wyrd has shown a quick turn around for errata when the need is called for and this will be no exception. They are great company for listening to the player base as a whole and reacting to problems in the game. If Ratbomb continues to be a problem, Wyrd will stop it by some means. Hopefully this is a means that leaves Hamelin a viable master . In the meantime, if you are playing Outcasts and suspect the rats are coming, buy a sniper and spend your first turn shooting rats in a barrel. No rats, means no out activating and they are very easy to kill. Once you become aware of what the plan is, you can learn to adjust to it. Its definitely not an easy game, but once the shock wears off it can be weathered.

 Malifaux in its current state continues to be a fantastic game to play. Even the fun of Guild Ball doesn't distract me too much from the game. Sure there's some games that I walk away feeling like I was just blindsided, but on retrospection I usually find that there were ways I could have played better. A good friend of mine often says most games are lost at scheme selection. That, however, is a story for another day. Please feel free to start a discussion about this, but keep it calm and respectful.

Until next time Keep Cheating Fate,
John Fox

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Ressurecting A Blog

So I thought I would start my return to the blogging world with a bit of a sheepish apology. As it does, life got in the way and once its teeth were sunk in it didn't let go. I ended up with a new job, new house, new town. That's how the world goes, though, and the good news is I've played a LOT of Malifaux to make up for my lack of Blogging. Since last year I have switched over to running mainly Arcanists and I thought I'd start off with a bit of a Tourney Report from the Mid Winter Ball Tourney last month at Atomic Empire in Durham, NC.

I went in pretty excited. It was my second tourney with my new faction and I felt like I was in good shape. I've managed to go 1-2 every tournament beforehand so I was determined to increase my ratio this time around. My son packed up his dirty gremlin cheaters and I brought my Arcanists.

Round 1 or Joss makes Bacon
vs Jeff Barnes
Strat: Turf War
Schemes: Convict Labor, Show of Force, Leave Your Mark, Frame For Murder, and Honestly Can't Remember but Wasn't Important Anyway Scheme

I took
Spider vonSpider Guy (Ramos) Arcing Screen, Draw More Cards and Heal All Spiders Upgrades
Mad Ax (Joss) Healing Spiders and Shock the Monkey Upgrades
Howard Shwarzaspider Imbued Energies (Duh)
Shooty McSlowguy (Acolyte)
Freddie Mercury (Performer)
Reactivate Spider who is too large for his base

My opponent brought:
Ulix with dirty gremlin upgrades
Old Major With more dirty gremlin upgrades
Lenny with still more upgrades
Gracie with the cheater saddle
Merris Kaboom LaCroix
Cheatiest Model in the Game (slop hauler)

I gotta say this was a very fun game. Jeff had only just started playing recently and I had helped coach him just a week before on his Ulix crew, so I was very impressed when he played a super solid game. (wasn't thanks to me really, he got some great advice from our resident Gremlin Guru Alex)
My plan: So I was a bit of a dummy. I really thought Gracie would come over and splatter Howard all over the field, so I put Frame For Murder on him. Yeah.....Howard lived. I had tons of upgrades so I took Show of Force. I figured Joss could kill Gracie and Lenny to weed out his upgrades. Plus, the Acolyte and Performer could pull them out of the middle to deny points. This...actually worked.

What neither of us took into account was that the middle of the board was crowded with terrain. Too crowded for big 50mm and 40mm bases. There were so many models it was like Walmart after church on a Sunday. Jeff summoned a warpig, and I killed it. He summoned lots of piglets, I killed them. Luckily for me, Gracie and Ole Major got stuck behind his own wall of pigs, unluckily for me Howard and the Axeman spent most of their time killing piglets instead of the good models.
My acolyte pulled Merris forward and killed her, denying him Show of Force (I guessed right that he had chosen this one) then pulled Lenny forward before dying to burning.
Performer basically screwed around with the slop hauler for most of the game, accomplishing...really nothing honestly.
I was scratching my head as to my opponent's last scheme until a piglet got free and dropped a scheme marker in the last turn for Leave Your Mark.

Result 6-6 Tie.
It was a knock down drag out in which many piglets and many spiders died, but not much else. Jeff and I joked and cut up the whole game, which makes Malifaux so much more fun. In reality, I should have gone for Convict or LEave your mark with a spider instead of trying to get Howard killed, but lets be honest how often is it that Howard doesn't die?

Round 2 or Perdita is my Nemesis
Vs Patrick Healy

Strategy: Head hunter
Schemes: convict labor, show of force, mark for death, and 2 others I can't remember

I took:
Magic Man (Mr Cooper) with All the Monkeys!, Draw Even More Cards, and Shell Game upgrades
Creepy Clown (Lola) with All Teh Markers upgrade
Miss Howard with Imbued Energies (I mean did you expect anything else??)
Sad Kitty (Cerberus) guessed it! Imbued Energies
Bearded Lady (thin Lizzy)
Shooty McSlowguy again

He took:
Perdita with all her kill you now upgrades
Papa Kaboom
2 Latigo de something or others
2 Cheaty Birdguy (Austringer)

My plan: So Patrick is a fantastic player and has beaten me in two tournaments in a row. Also Perdita is basically my worst nightmare, especially since the middle of the board was WIDE OPEN. Yes that's WIDE OPEN. There were 2 hidey spots and a tree. My goal was to try and kill her as fast as possible. It didn't work. This game started with me losing Miss Step on the top of turn 2 and everyone else shortly after. Cooper hung around just because he can vanish to a marker with ease. I picked up 3 headhunter points and that was it. Really not much to write up about it except that I HATE Perdita. I lost 8-3.
My thoughts on this match, I should have brought Ramos and just stuffed spiders down his throat while I scored points. Forcing Perdita to choose between ignoring cover or armor is probably the smartest move. Patrick was a great sport and even put up with me whining.
Enough crying, on to round 3.

Round 3 or Gremlins again this time with Less Bacon
Vs Brad... (First time player, and I sadly don't remember his name but he's an awesome guy)

Strategy: Squatter's Rights.
Schemes: convict labor, search ruins, Occupy Territory, and once again its been too long to remember

I took:
Magic Man again with pretty much same set up
Sad Clown and all the productions that had been practiced
Myranda otherwise known as kitty delivery system
2 Shooty McSlowguys (sensing a theme)
Freddie Mercury and Thin Lizzy made a reappearance
Scheme Tosser Bot (Mannequin)
and a lone monkey

He took
Perdita Jr
Green Frank
the Other Papa Loco
Drunken Nino
and a few young lacroix

My plan: Drop Shooty on a marker with From the Shadows, get Myranda to the other extreme side of the board. it was corner deploy so there was a very long center line. I took search ruins and occupy. The board was full of severe terrain so I figured I had plenty of time. Ophelia blew an acolyte out of the water turn 1, Rami killed Mercury turn 1 as well. I may have panicked a bit.
So I just claimed a few markers, used the remaining acolyte to get Pere and Francois stuck in severe terrain, dropped markers and on the last turn, used Disappearing act to get Thin Lizzy and the remaining acolyte vaulted into Occupy range.
My opponent was pretty new to the game and, knowing I wasn't going to go home with the cup, I spent the better part of the game coaching him when he needed help and offering pointers on how to play Ophelia. My son plays her all the time, so I know how to receive a butt kicking from the Kin. It was a good game and Brad was a great sport. I brought home a 9-6 victory and beat my old 1-2 standing with a 1-1-1.

The tourney was a lot of fun, we had 19 people and everyone had a blast. Our local Gremlin Guru, Alex Schmidt came in first place but the Greensboro team won the Store Trophy. Coming up next week is our first anniversary tournament and I've added a few models to my arsenal and a new master. I'll give you a hint: It's Marcus.

Until next time, and it will be a regular blog again, Keep Cheating Fate!